President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s recent trip to Europe included visits to five countries with diverse histories and, in most cases, diverse languages.
While the Church is well-established in two of the nations he visited — Germany and Norway — members in the nations of Romania, Moldova and Slovakia are still writing the maiden chapters of their own Church histories.
But despite the differences in the lands he visited, President Uchtdorf felt that the Lord’s message to His people is constant and similar: Trust God, find joy in His gospel, be united. Live your life as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ with a natural confidence and goodness. Look out for one another, have faith and then move forward.
The second counselor in the First Presidency began his recent European assignment by rededicating the Freiberg Germany Temple on Sept. 4. (See the Sept. 11 Church News for coverage of the event.) There he witnessed unity between the many varied Latter-day Saints that call that iconic temple their own. The Freiberg temple district stretches across seven nations. Yet its divine light, said President Uchtdorf, transcends borders and language barriers, cultural diversity and socioeconomic differences.
“The temple and its light touches Romania,” he said. “It touches Moldova. It touches the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.”
President Uchtdorf was especially heartened to see hundreds of youth from across the vast Freiberg temple district come together and stage a cultural celebration on the eve of the rededication. The event was defined by cooperation and testimony. Members of the young cast could not all speak a common language — but they loved one another and rejoiced as one. They all represented the language of love for Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The combining power was the gospel and their friendship as members of the Church,” he said.
Following the temple rededication in Freiberg, President Uchtdorf and the Europe Area President, Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy, traveled to Bucharest, Romania, to meet with members and missionaries. The Church is young in Romania, so the members and missionaries must rely on one another. They are closely connected and work together to help their congregations strengthen and grow. The mission presidency is strong and filled with love for the people of Romania.
“I was deeply impressed by how excited [the members] are [about the gospel],” he said. “They are enthusiastic, united and confident.”
The Romanians are a “believing” people, he added. Across the country people worship in their churches and accept the teachings of the Bible. With the united help of members and missionaries, the people can find a fullness in their lives as they discover and come to know the Book of Mormon and the teachings of the restored gospel.
President Uchtdorf challenged the Romanian members to “walk tall” always internalizing that they are sons and daughters of God as they proclaim the happy message of the restored gospel and share the plan of salvation with others.
Located east of Romania, the nation of Moldova is renowned for it fertile fields, vineyards and orchards. The Moldovans live close to the earth and naturally understand gospel themes such as the law of the harvest.
As in Romania, the Church is still being established in this former Soviet bloc nation.
“We have a small flock in Moldova,” said President Uchtdorf, who met with members and missionaries in the capital of Chisinau.
Much of the nation’s strength is found in the Relief Society sisters who live their day-to-day lives with equal measures of resiliency and faith. The priesthood leaders are small in number but tall in faith. The Moldovan members know economic challenges. President Uchtdorf met a devoted branch president, for example, who works 16 hours a day, six days a week — and earns a dollar an hour.
“But the gospel brings them hope …. They have a burning fire that you can see in their lives. They have strength,” he said. “There is a bond of friendship between the mission leaders and the members. There is a real feeling of being brothers and sisters in the Church.”
President Uchtdorf, along with Elder Gary B. Sabin of the Seventy and second counselor in the Europe Area, also met with members and missionaries in this landlocked central European nation.
“It was wonderful being with the members. We shook hands with everyone, then everyone wanted a selfie” he said, smiling.
Despite having an official presence for only a decade, the Church enjoys solid government relationships in Slovakia. The visiting Brethren met with civic leaders and discussed ways that the Church can continue to assist and bless lives in the country.
President Uchtdorf also visited a Romani community in Slovakia where the Church and its partners have helped build small homes along with a water supply system to provide running water and sewer service. A small sign in the community gratefully notes the Church’s assistance. Such efforts are helping Roma families realize self-reliance and integration into Slovakian society, while also making friends for the Church.
President Uchtdorf also visited a care center for disabled children and young adults. The Church has donated exercise equipment and other resources to improve the care offered at the facility.
Many of the residents at the center displayed their paintings and other handicrafts for President Uchtdorf and the other visitors.
“It was hard to leave. These fine people are so grateful to the Church and its members. You want to stay with them,” he said. “They get close to your heart.”
President Uchtdorf and Sister Harriet Uchtdorf concluded his Europe trip in Oslo, Norway. He was joined by Elder Paul V. Johnson, first counselor in the Europe Area Presidency, and his wife, Sister Leslie Johnson.
The Church enjoys a rich history in Norway and many members in the United States can trace their lineage and Church origins to this Scandinavian land.
President Uchtdorf was impressed by the dignity, faith and capacity of the local leaders and members. The member meeting in Oslo was an unforgettable highlight of his trip.
Following remarks from Sister Uchtdorf, President Uchtdorf invited the members to ask questions. He responded to their many queries and encouraged the Norwegian members to take their love of the gospel outside the walls of the chapels, into their neighborhoods and into the hearts of the people.
“Our own excitement and joy for the gospel can bring light [to others],” he said.
The Church, of course, has a remarkable past in Europe. But President Uchtdorf is certain the future there is equally bright. Opportunities — often disguised as obstacles — await members across the Continent. “We just need to be confident that this is indeed God’s work, and that He is with us.”
“We should not fear,” he said. “Just believe, and move forward.”
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